St. Catherine's in Eureka Springs

Stations of the Cross with Crescent Hotel in the background

“You’re in ‘Theodora’s room,’” the bellman says as I follow him down the hall.

 “That can’t be good. Who’s Theodora?” I asked.

 “Are you going on the ghost tour tonight?”

 “Yes.”

 “You’ll hear all about her. You’re in the second most requested room. The tour starts outside your door.”

And this is why I travel with my own bourbon. You never know when you’ll be stuck in a haunted hotel with a closed bar.

On a Thursday afternoon in late January, Henri and I headed to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a stay at America’s Most Haunted Hotel. After lunch at the Cathouse lounge in downtown Eureka and a couple of hours roaming the streets, it was time to check-in to the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa. They’d given us a free night and it was already 5:00, an hour past check-in. My plan was to settle into our room, give Henri some off-leash potty time, and take a rest before dinner and our ghost tour.

At 2000 feet above sea level, the Crescent overlooks all of Eureka. It is absolutely splendid and I cannot even begin to imagine how beautiful this landscape will be when the Dogwoods are in full bloom this spring. There is plenty of green space with hiking trails- a dog’s dream- and you can take the Magnolia Trail from the hotel all the way to Spring Street, which connects to Main in downtown. A map from guest services will show you the way, but I suggest you ask the hotel for a dog-friendly shuttle to pick you up and take you back.

Check In

Room 419

Room 419. Theodora’s room.

When we arrived at the Crescent, the doorman greeted us warmly and even gave Henri some scratchies. He went with us to the car to retrieve our things, then escorted us to our room. By ‘our’ room, I mean mine, Henri’s, and Theodora’s.

Room 419 is the hotel’s second most requested room.

Theodora was a nurse at the Crescent when it served as the Baker Cancer Hospital from 1937-1940. However, Norman Baker, the founder, was no doctor. He was a charismatic charlatan who made over $4,000,000 with his promises to cure the ailing. He killed more people than he cured.

Many of those patients, and a few of the nurses, are believed to have never left the Crescent.

Theodora is frequently seen as an older woman fumbling for her keys outside room 419. She is also reputed to have an aversion to discord among her guests, and is known for organizing things in a messy room.

If you leave your belongings scattered, you may return with them neatly placed. In one story, an arguing couple unpacked their things, then went downstairs to meet friends. When they returned, their suitcases were packed and sitting by the door. They took the hint and decided to stay elsewhere. Henri and I neither heard nor saw Theodora during our stay, but I do believe she- or someone- might have paid us a visit.

The first thing I did upon getting to our room, was unpack Henri’s things. I placed his bed on the floor and laid his toys NEATLY on the corner- a bully stick, a tennis ball, and a Lamb Chop stuffed animal. We then went downstairs and to the east lawn to explore. We were gone about 45 minutes.

When we returned the ball was under my bed and the Lamb Chop was about two feet from where I’d left it.

Now, it’s an old hotel. The floors are slanted, and there is currently a lot of remodeling and construction. The vibration created by such clamoring could certainly cause a tennis ball to roll across the floor, but there is NO WAY a stuffed toy could move that distance on it’s own. Not. Possible.

So, I did what any Southern girl would do…

First, I made myself a bourbon and water. Then, I closed the bathroom and closet doors. Lastly, I politely introduced myself and Henri to “Ms. Theodora” and asked her to please not rearrange my things or let anyone else bother us. After finishing my drink, we went to dinner.

Dinning

The Crescent Hotel boasts two restaurants, the 1886 Steakhouse open for both lunch and dinner, and Sky Bar Gourmet Pizza, open for dinner during the week and both lunch and dinner on the weekends.

Sky Bar is dog-friendly and has a stunning view of the Ozarks.

The Crescent also offers a Sunday brunch that I’ve been told is absolutely amazing and always crowded. You’ll definitely need reservations for that. Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed for remodeling during our stay and none of the restaurants were open.

What I can report is that the front desk was most apologetic and very helpful. I was told that if I wanted something delivered from another restaurant, they would make that happen for me, or if I wanted to take a shuttle somewhere, they would call one. Since the shuttle was dog-friendly, I opted for that.

We headed back downtown to the Crescent’s sister hotel, the Basin Park Hotel. Dog-friendly. Also haunted. After dinner, the front desk at the Basin called the shuttle to come get us and it was back to the Crescent for our 8:00 p.m. ghost tour.

Ghost Tour

When I booked my reservation, I was told that dogs were not allowed on the tour ($21.50 for adults, $8.00 for children 12 and under). However, when I checked in and inquired again to confirm, I was told that it would be up to our tour guide. As it turned out, there were only three other people on our tour and the Duchess Debra thought it would be interesting to have Henri with us, as he might see things we wouldn’t. I hoped he’d keep the ghosts at bay, but as it turns out The Duchess was right.

As I mentioned, the tour started outside the door of our room where I learned the story of Theodora. Then it was down the hall and down the stairs where a little girl fell to her death. We learned of a nurse pushing a gurney down the hall from the ‘asylum’ that was once associated with the cancer hospital, and of a ghost named Michael, a mason worker who fell to his death and landed near a room on the second floor.

Michael’s room, number 218, is the hotel’s most requested, as he seems to be somewhat of a prankster, especially with the ladies. Irishmen!

It wasn’t until we reached the third floor that Henri seemed to see something we did not. As the Duchess told tales, I noticed Henri becoming increaslingly restless. He hadn’t started talking, so I knew it wasn’t potty duties. I watched him more closely and noticed his focus kept gravitating in one direction. Our guide told me to take a picture. So I knelt next to Henri and focused my camera in the direction he seemed to be staring and snapped several photos. In each of them, four orbs are clearly visible.

The orbs never moved and I can only assume that whatever he was watching, was watching him.

The watchers.

The watchers.

Next on our tour was the morgue. Yes, the morgue; it was once part of the cancer hospital.

I had decided before I got to the Crescent that I would likely forgo this part of the tour, but since I had the terrier in tow, I felt a little safer. Fortunately, nothing weird happened, but it is where we learned of Morris, the cat. His ghost is thought to hang around that area because in his time it was the maintenance shed.

Morris was ‘Hotel Manager’ for 21 years before passing away in 1994. He is buried on the property and a headstone marks his grave. Guests have frequently reported feeling something like a cat brush against their leg, but he did not make his presence known to us. In addition to Morris, there is one other pet ghost. That is the St. Bernard of Norman Baker. We didn’t see him, or feel his sloppy, wet kiss, another sensation reported to occur.

After our tour, we sat in the lobby with our group flipping through albums of pictures captured and submitted by guests. I offered to let everyone come to my room, but due to insurance regulations, our guide had to decline. Fortunately, the other guests did not.

I wasn’t too eager to go back up there alone, nor was I convinced that I wouldn’t be sleeping in the lobby next to Jaspur, one of two cats that currently reside at the hotel. There’s a nice fireplace and the couch looked comfy.

We returned to our room, where thankfully, nothing was amiss. The other guests took a few photos, then we all went back downstairs and outside to the east lawn to see the mist descend from the third floor balcony. When that occurs, it’s usually around 10:30 p.m. and often a woman can be seen falling to her death.

I am happy to report a clear, starry night with zero mist.

When we finally returned to our room, I felt another bourbon was in order and I once again spoke to Ms. Theodora. I thanked her for her hospitality and reminded her that we did not wish to be disturbed. I spent the rest of the night watching Henri like a hawk but he slept soundly.

Dawn

My morning coffee view

My morning coffee view

In case I needed to vacate quickly, I slept in my clothes, my contacts, and my jewelry. When I finally got up the next morning, all I had to do was throw on a pair of shoes and much needed sunglasses. We went to the lobby where I grabbed a cup of coffee, then headed out the back door to the east lawn to potty.

Things looked much better under the bright blue sky. The singing birds and the bells of St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church added to the serenity.

Daylight! We made it.

I sat in a porch rocker and sipped my coffee while Henri played peek-a-boo with Caspur, the other resident cat. Caspur’s curious nose would rise slowly and ever-so-slightly over the stair, then duck back as Henri approached. When Caspur disappeared, Henri would back away and wait. This game went on until Caspur got brave enough to come onto the porch. It was a peaceful and much welcomed morning.

Never have I been to a hotel with it’s own personality- much less a split one.

By day, the vintage charm and majesty of the Crescent is reminiscent of The Grand Hotel in the movie Somewhere in Time. By night, the place takes on a quiet cloak of eeriness that was compounded by the natural sleep of a January winter.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Crescent and would love to go back in the spring. They have everything you need for a comfortable weekend getaway with your dog, including a spa (for people). In addition to your room rate, if traveling with your pet a $25 per pet/per night non-refundable fee will be added to your bill. Pets are not allowed in the cottages, only the main hotel.

If you stay in Theodora’s room remember to be nice and tidy lest you find your things packed and waiting by the door.

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